A person gets sober and we all cheer. Then, he falls off the wagon, and when he falls, his condition is worse than ever. A friend finally came to her senses and ditches that loser she’s been living with, recognizing that he is a controlling son of a gun who was robbing her of herself. Life is grand until tragically and inexplicably, she gets into a new relationship with a chump who is even worse than the first one!
On and on the endless examples could be catalogued. So many legitimate attempts at life-changing revolution wind up being exchanges of one tyranny for another; a swapping of one set of chains for another; trading one evil task master for another one. The recognition that life must change is simply not enough. Transformation is not accomplished by giving up what is bad for you. No, the bad has to be replaced with what is good and healthy.
I think this is what Blaise Pascal meant when he said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man and woman which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God.” I think this is the highest expression of the Apostle Paul’s mysticism when he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but it is Christ who now lives in me.”
And I think that this is exactly what Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was talking about when he articulated those necessary steps toward sobriety, where one must acknowledge his or her powerlessness and turn life over to a Higher Power who is the only source of health and sanity.
This isn’t mere self-help. This is Spirituality 101. This is the essence of the Christian life: Our desires, impulses, and very lives have to be crucified, as it were, so that the life God has for us can be born and lived in its place. It is replacement, not simply revolution.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.